McCain campaign vetted Birther rumors

Even President Obama's opponent last fall didn't take the myths about his birth seriously

Published July 24, 2009 11:50PM (EDT)

There are, of course, a whole lot of truly baffling things about the Birther movement and its theories. But perhaps one of the most puzzling is this unanswered question: If President Obama really were born in Kenya, why didn't the McCain or Clinton campaigns dig up the evidence and publicize it? Why has that task fallen to the ragtag crew that is the Birthers, led now by Orly Taitz, a dentist/lawyer/real estate agent who got her law degree online and is regularly admonished for having little, if any, idea how to properly file her court papers?

Turns out there's an answer.

The Washington Independent's David Weigel, one of the best sources of reportage on the movement, had a scoop on Friday: The McCain campaign did hear of the rumors of Obama's birth, and -- though they were skeptical from the start -- checked them out.

"We never saw any evidence that then-Senator Obama had been born outside of the United States," Trevor Potter, who served as the general counsel for the McCain campaign, told Weigel. "We saw rumors, but nothing that could be sourced to evidence. There were no statements and no documents that suggested he was born somewhere else. On the other side, there was proof that he was born in Hawaii."

Weigel also quotes an unnamed lawyer who was working for the McCain campaign and was asked to look into the legal merits of one of the early Birther lawsuits. "The conversation was along the lines of ‘this is idiotic, but explain to me why,’” that lawyer said. “I looked at whether the lawsuit was going to be dismissed. I said yes.”

Of course, it's no surprise that the McCain camp found nothing to substantiate the rumors, both because they're not true and because they're being developed and spread by people who see dark forces working against them at every turn, and misinterpret every available bit of evidence to support that belief.

Look no further than World Net Daily, a conservative Web site that's done the most to keep the issue alive: On Friday, it reported that search engines like Google and Bing were "systematically scrubbing our content." This is their evidence:

Weeks ago, when WND was one of the few sources for news information about President Obama's eligibility controversy, a search for "Obama birth certificate" on Google News would have produced dozens of WND story links.

Today, however, typing in "Obama birth certificate" and sorting by relevance leads to a long list of links apparently deemed more "relevant" than WND's coverage.

As if it needed to be said, there's been no scrubbing, and their articles are still easily located on Google.

But to WND Editor Joseph Farah, the fact that his publication's articles on the topic aren't ranked as highly in search results now as they are when WND is the only one on the story is evidence of "a broad pattern of Internet search engine censorship."

I couldn't make this up if I tried, folks.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Alex Koppelman

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